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Castellammare & Shipbuilding
+Stabiae villas

Vesuvius seen from the port
of Castellammare

View of Vesuvius from
                CastellammareThe Castellammare shipyard near Naples seems to be bustling and in fine shape. The 56,000 ton Grande Francia has been finished and will be christened and launched shortly. It is one of the so-called "Car Trak Carrier" fleet of the Grimaldi Group of Naples and is the first of five such ships to be built. They will all have the capacity to transport 2500 cars, 850 containers and have a "linear capacity" of 2500 meters for additional heavy vehicles. Another of the five, Grande Amburgo, will be built in Castellammare starting in the new year. Yards in Palermo and Ancona will take over the construction of the other three. A new cruise ship, the Ferryn Athara, for the Tirrenia lines, will also start construction in Castellammare in 2003.

Castellammare has a long history as a shipyard. Neapolitans learned shipbuilding from the Phoenicians and the Greeks, then became the principal shipwrights for the Romans, contributing to the Empire's domination of the Mediterranean. Neapolitan shipwrights continued their activity even during the Middle Ages, thanks to extensive merchant and cultural trading between Europe and the Middle East. The Normans, Swabians, Angevins and Aragonese carried on maritime commerce, and Naples was of primary importance in the southern Tyrrhenian sea. In 1571, Neapolitan yards contributed greatly to the successful outcome of the Battle of Lepanto by furnishing a number of ships in the victorious fleet.

The  ship-of-the line, Monarca,
launched in 1850 at Castellammare
(see link - great story!)

In 1734 with the ascension of the Bourbons to the throne, Neapolitan shipwrights began building naval ships for the protection of the newly independent kingdom. In 1739 the first completely Bourbon frigate was launched, the S. Carlo e Partenope. In the same year in Naples, the Accademia di Marina was opened; it was the first academy in Italy for the training of naval officers. In 1780 Ferdinand IV established a Ministry of the Royal Navy and opened a shipyard at Castellammare di Stabia to build ships for the fleets of the kingdom. Ferdinand chose Castellammare as the site of the royal shipyards because of the inhabitants' reputation as master craftsmen. The kingdom, itself, was unstable at times, but the Bourbons, nevertheless, developed the facility at Castellammare into one of the most impressive in the Mediterranean.

The cruiser Dante Alighieri,
launched in 1910 at Castellammare.

In 1818 at Vigliena, the first steamship in Italy was launched, the Ferdinand I. By the time of Italian unification (1861), the yards at Castellammare had built fifty ships of medium tonnage for the navy, as well as countless smaller merchant vessels. On January 18, 1859, Francesco II witnessed the launching of what turned out to be the last ship built for the navy of Naples, the frigate Borbone. 

The last years of the kingdom of Naples saw a general restructuring of port facilities. In addition to the shipyards, the Kingdom of Naples had other considerable industrial and manufacturing activity, particularly in metallurgy, an industry which drew widebased financial support from English, French and Swiss entrepreneurs.

Naval training ship, the Amerigo Vespucci
in the bay of Naples

With the unification of Italy came a reevaluation of the shipyards of the ex-Kingdom of Naples. The question of Castellammare was, of course, but one part of the much larger question of just how much industry should be assigned to the southern half of a  unified nation. 

Since unification, Castellammare has had to contend with numerous proposals to close the shipyards altogether. Also, it has had to battle competition from other shipyards throughout Italy. Nevertheless, between 1861 and 1918 the yards launched 83 naval vessels such as the one shown (above, left), many of which proved to be among the finest in the nation's fleets. From 1918 to the early 1980s, 170 more ships were built at Castellammare, some of more than 50,000 tons capacity. Two ships, well-known to all, have come from the Castellammare yards: the naval training sailing ship, Amerigo Vespucci (1931) (image, above) (as well as her sister-ship, the Cristoforo Colombo -1928), and the bathyscaph Triest (1953) which took Auguste Piccard down to 3,150 meters in the waters off of the island of Ponza.

update June 2014
The Castellammare shipyards today.      
The first item, above, is from 12 years ago. I am happy to say that the "bustling and in fine shape" lead doesn't need the drastic revision I thought it would. It seems that barely a week has gone by over the last decade or so without some gloom and doom prophecy about the Castellammare shipyards appearing in the papers. The dire predictions have all focused on industrial/labor problems — not enough money, not enough work, lay-offs, etc. none of which I feel particularly well-qualified to comment upon. I report only that over the last ten years, this place keeps cranking out commercial ships. (Most modern Italian military ships are from the yards in Genoa.) Since 2002 the yards at Castellammare have turned out numerous smaller craft of  the hydrofoil taxi variety and consistently one large ship a year, usually one of those large passenger ferries, meaning around 200-225 meters long with space for around 2000-2500 passengers and hundreds of vehicles. (They are very utilitarian vessels, by the way, and are how most of us boat around the Mediterranean.) This, as opposed to those super cruise ships, those new ones that look like a cross between an aircraft carrier and a Christmas tree. They can be well over 300 meters in length and carry 5,000 passengers and crew. (My one and only adventure aboard such a monster is here.)

- - - - - - - - - - added May 2019

the Trieste
On May 25 the shipyards at Castellammare launched their largest ship since WW2. She is the Trieste, called by NATO countries an LHD (for Landing Helicopter Dock), commonly called a "Helicopter Carrier" but is indeed much more than that. Trieste is 245 meters (804ft) long, 36 m (118ft) at the beam (wide), and displaces 33,000 tons. The flight deck is 230m (755ft) × 36m (118ft) and accommodates 9 heavy helicopters or 4 short take-off and landing fighters such as the F-35B. Besides being a fighting ship, the Trieste is intended to aid in humanitarian crises, such as sea rescues, evacuations of persons from stricken areas and to furnish fresh water, food and electricity to areas in need. To those ends the ship is equipped with 1060 beds, well-equipped hospital facilities, and ample space for a variety of sea-borne vehicles (motor launches and rafts) and land vehicles (wheeled as well as continuous-track, such as a tank or bull-dozer).
The Trieste is marked by a well dock or well deck, officially termed a 'wet well', which can be flooded for operations. It is a hangar-like deck at the waterline in the stern. By taking on water the ship can lower the stern, flooding the well deck and letting boats, amphibious vehicles and landing craft off-load and also dock within the ship.
The Trieste is meant to replace a decommissioned light aircraft carrier and is expected to be fully operational in 2022.

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added Nov. 2019
Flo-Flo at Castellammare

"Flo/Flo" (From float-on/float off) vessels are specialized Heavy Lift Ships. They are submersible hull ships that load, transport, and off-load extremely heavy or out-sized cargo independent of port equipment cargo such as yachts, tug boats, barges, landing craft, floating cranes, etc. Flo-Flos are designed to take on ballast water in floodable  tanks and partially submerge the vessel. Cargo is then floated over the submerged portion of the vessel that then deballasts and surfaces under the cargo. After the vessel is full afloat, the cargo is secured for transport.

This type of operation is seen in these photos at the port of Castellammare, where, in the top image, the Chinese-built Flo-Flo is shown empty. She is the Hua Yang Long, built in 2015 at the Guangzhou Shipyard and is property of the Guangzhou Salvage Bureau. (Guangzhou is still commonly known in English as Canton and is one of China's three largest cities). The Hua Yang Long is 228 meters long and 43 meters wide. The image on the right shows the Chinese ship loaded with the Giulio Verne, a cable-laying vessel and bound for the Philippines where she will lay communication cables.
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added Oct. 2021
Msc Cruises (Mediterranean Shipping Company)

In mid 2020, cruise lines suspended operations for over six months during the COVID-19pandemic. With things looking better the Castellammare shipyards have started construction of "Explorer II" the newest cruise ship of Msc Cruises. That company is a global cruise line registered in Switzerland, based in Geneva, and founded in Naples in 1989. Msc Cruises is part of the Mediterranean Shipping Company, the world's second-biggest container shipping operator. Msc is the world's largest privately held cruise company, with 23,500 employees worldwide with offices in 45 countries. As of 2017, MSC Cruises is the fourth-largest cruise company in the world, after Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean Group, and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, with a 7.2% share of all passengers carried in 2017. Msc goes back to the Lauro Lines, founded in Naples by Achille Lauro in 1960. That company entered the cruise business with two ships, MS Angelina Lauro and MS Achille Lauro. The former burnt in the port of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands in 1979 and the latter was hijacked by the Palestine Liberation Front in 1985, which put the company in financial difficulties. As I say in my original item on Achille Lauro, his passenger liner, Achille Lauro, continued in service until 1994 when she caught fire off the coast of Somalia, was abandoned, and sank.

In the last 30 years Msc has built acquired well over a dozen cruise ships. This latest one will be one of four luxury ships of 64,000 gross tons each. The first ship, Explorer II, will launch in the spring of 2023. All ships will be built
in Castellammare. Among the newest luxeries will be the "world’s first virtual personal cruise assistant," an artificial
intelligence "gizmo" to help you with the hard stuff, such as finding your room and getting tickets for the next keelhauling. Most of the ships fly the Panamanian flag, a few Maltese. The photo (above), typical of many of them, is the MSC Preziosa built in 2013.    

added Oct 2022

If you believe the Earth is flat, "globalization" doesn't mean anything to you. Really, it doesn't mean much, anyway. A globe is just a model of the Earth, but since the Earth is really an oblate speheroid (image), maybe we can agree on "oblate spheroidization" or "kind of pear-shaped". Think that over and, if you know how to write, let me know.

This is about the "globalization" of shipbuilding. It occured to me when I read that the Grimaldi Group (GNV) is expanding its fleet. The GNV (Grandi Navi Veloci- Big Fast Sips) are all over the place here. I see them every day when they "sail" by my house (before my time - now they have engines). They are adding five new ships for cars, trucks and passengers. The ships are to be delivered in 2025-2026.
Small details:
  • they can carry and charge electric vehicles;
  • Grimaldi will have the option for five more ships;
  • the ships are Ammonia Ready (for conversion to marine ammonia when that time comes).
BIG detail:
  • the ships are built by China Merchants Heavy Industries in Jiangsu, an eastern coastal province in the People's Republic of China.
BIGGER DETAIL: the Chinese company has delivered 29 car-carrier ships to GNV over the years!

As an aside, GNV was created in 1992 and got its start by recovering and refurbishing "Liberty ships" left over
from WWII. They went into the cruise ship business by expanding throughout the Mediterranean and were the first
cruise ferries ever operated by an Italian company. As of 2018 GNV operates a fleet of thirteen cruise ferries,
including some of the largest ferries in Europe. Recently they converted one of their ferries into a hospital
ship for corona virus patients. They delivered it for a symbolic 1 EURO. So I have nothing against them, but I
ask myself, what about Italian ship builders?

There are a couple of things we should remember about ships: first, they are a lot bigger than they used to be. The largest ships in the world in 1840 (barely into the "industrial revolution") might have been all-wooden and 300 feet long. Today, you can still see them as "tall ships" that many navies use to teach basic seamanship to young sailors (the Italian navy has two, one of which is the Amerigo Vespucci (image, right). They are dwarfed by the vessels of today, which are all steel, over a thousand feet long and have 15 decks. Second, there is only one such modern "industrial strength" shipyard in Italy, and that is Fincantieri, (Cantieri Navali Italiani), based in Trieste. It was formed in 1959 and is the largest shipbuilder in Europe, and now the fourth largest in the world. Their main yard is in Trieste, but they have half a dozen secondary yards in Italy, including the south (in Palermo, Sicily and Castellammare, Naples) The company has built both commercial and military vessels during its history. My one and only guess as to why they don't build the GNV ships is that it costs a lot less to have them built in China.

Oh, forget super-yachts. The "yacht liner" is here, or will be, shortly. It is a residential vessel. The first one is the "Somnio" (artist's rendering, image). It's an impressive 728 feet long. Somnio will be the largest yacht in the world when it launches in 2024. It is under construction by Fincantieri. (Hurray! I think.) They are already selling the 39 apartments for $11.2 million each, but the ownership list is so secret, that those who are on it are taken out and shot. 

There are certainly well-known Italian ship builders such as Benetti, Sanlorenzo, Azimuth, Perini, and
others, but they specialize in recreational vessels
yachts and super-yachts, most of which are bought by very
wealthy clients. There are fine boats, by all means, and use the latest technologies to build in wood or fiberglass.
They're not necessarily small, either. I've seen 300-foot private yachts here. They have helicopter pads, swimming pools, and small power boats to take you ashore. The pride themselves on their Italian craftsmanship
a touch of class for the well-heeled. Some are for charter and some are totally private.

Still a bright light is our local ship builder at Castellammare, the main shipyard of the old Kingdom of Naples
(you can review their history in the article above this one.) They still build ships, but the production is small.
They consistently turn out one large ship a year, usually a large passenger ferry, meaning around 200-225 meters long with space for around 2000-2500 passengers and hundreds of vehicles. (They are very utilitarian vessels, by the way, and are how most of us boat around the Mediterranean.) This, as opposed to those super cruise ships, those new ones that look like a cross between an aircraft carrier and a Christmas tree. They can be well over 300 meters in length and carry 5,000 passengers and crew. (My one and only adventure aboard such a monster is here.)

A few years ago Castellammare launched their largest ship since WW2. She is the Trieste (details above on this page or click here).  To bring the discussion full-oblate spheroid, those long Flo-on/Flo-off ships you occasionally see here?
(above on this page or click here)... made in China.

=====added July 16 2023=====================

If you have a friend who is a nautical engineer, he or she will assist you with this item. The salient point of it all is that the Castelammare shipyards are still getting it done, as they always have, in good times (a few) and bad times (a lot). They've launched not just another ship, but part of a ship --in Italian the "troncone". I wonder if the press-room at la Repubblica had questions they asked one another: "What is that?" "Part of a ship." "What does it do? "What, I'm suddenly Popeye the Sailor? All I know is they're sending it to France, where it will be joined to a vessel in the French navy."
Fine. That thing you see in the water just after launch has nothing to do with the Good Ship, Lollipop. (Great film, though!) In English a troncone is called a "bulbous bow". It is a protruding bulb at the bow (arrr! that's the front, you landlubber!) of a ship just below the waterline. The bulb modifies the way the water flows around the hull, reducing drag* and thus increasing speed, range, fuel efficiency, and stability. Large ships with bulbous bows generally have twelve to fifteen percent better fuel efficiency than similar vessels without them. A bulbous bow also increases the buoyancy of the forward part and hence reduces the pitching of the ship to a small degree. It is an important part of a large modern ship. That space may also hold SONAR equipment (Sound Navigation and Ranging).
* Terms such as "lift" and "drag" are used in the field of fluid mechanics to describe how fluids move by and around a solid surface, water around our ship or air around the wing  of an aircraft. The dynamics are identical. Ideally, the more lift and the less drag, the better. Oh, in this case, 'bow' rhymes with 'cow'. Aaaaarrrrr!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - added Aug 2023- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The Difference Between Men and Women Lexicographers
—or Mine is Longer than Yours
 —or "Little Things Mean a Lot" -
Lyrics, Edith Lindeman; music, Carl Stutz, 1953.

Our Castellammare di Stabiae (C.d.M.) isn't the only Castellammare in Italy. Palermo in Sicily has its Castellammare del Golfo, very important in the history and archeology of Mediterranean cultures. But ours has a longer name. Yes, but only since 1912. Before that, it was just Castellammare, but word-smiths decided to tack on "di Stabiae" because we all know how important length is, at least to male word-smiths. There are fine female lexicographers in Italy, who just smile at all this. I go to some length (sorry) to talk about this because there are groups now pushing to restore the original town of Stabiae, in the course of which they have made the claim that "Castellammare di Stabia" is the longest place name in Italy. Some know-it-all word-lady said, "Sorry, that's only 21 letter. The longest places names in Italy are 'Pino sulla Sponda del Lago Maggiore' and 'San Valentino in Abruzzo Citeriore', with 30 letters'. Maybe all we can say is that our C.d.M. has the longest name of any town that got erupted on by Vesuvius.

Stabiae arose as early as the 7th century BC due to the favorable climate and the town's strategic and commercial importance in that it had a port. Stabiae was about 30 km SE of Naples, on the route to Sorrento.The luxury Roman villas on the Sorrentine peninsula were not just large beautiful homes such as we mean when we call a place a "villa". They took up some real space. There had a peristyle, a continuous porch formed by columns around the perimeter of a building or a courtyard (image shows villa San Marco) with ample mosaics. Stabiae is most famous for the Roman villas found near the ancient city, but —importantly— they were above the port on a 50-meter-high headland overlooking the Gulf of Naples. The villas are the most stunning architectural and artistic remains among all Roman villas, the largest concentration of well-preserved elite seaside villas known in the Roman world. Stabiae was never the object of "Grand Tourism" many centuries later. Many of the objects and frescoes taken from these villas are now in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples.  It is not clear what is meant by "restore" the original. I think they mean build a nearby museum.

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